Checking in with Damani Harrison

 What are you working on right now?

I’ve been working with the Piedmont Council of the Arts, attending their creative conversations to discuss arts access programs in Charlottesville. I’ve also been involved with the Youth Development Network. They’re essentially an umbrella organization that gets disadvantaged youth, or youth in general, engaged in activities and positive learning experiences. I teach a Buford Middle School general music education class where we get into contemporary forms of music production, electronic music, audio engineering. I’m also in a hip-hop group called Beetnix. We’ve been around a while in Charlottesville, probably about five or six years. We took a short hiatus in the last year, but we’re coming back this summer, and we’re doing the Mustock festival near Madison in July.


What would Damani Harrison do if he knew he couldn’t fail? “I’d do what I’m doing right now, and succeed at it. I guess that would mean there’d be hundreds of Music Resource Centers all over the country, and I’d be producing movies and music on a mass scale.”

What were you doing when we called?

I just got finished teaching a drum lesson. 


Locally, who would you like to collaborate with?

I’ve worked with a lot of people. I’ve talked with Travis Elliott a lot about doing something together. I’d love to work with Travis, I think he’s awesome. I’d love to do a hard rock track, like a song with Thismeansyou. That would make my day. I’d like to do a lot more cross-media stuff. I’ve gotten really into scoring for film. I worked with Eric Hurt on a horror movie that he did, Lullaby. I’d definitely like to do more of that.


What music are you listening to lately?

Oh man, I listen to everything. I’m a hip-hop junkie first and foremost. I’m always up to what’s coming out, what’s underground. I’m really into classic soul, R&B. I love rock. The Mars Volta and Radiohead are my two favorite rock bands, and I can’t go a week without listening to either of those. I listen to classical music, a lot of ethnic music. Ethiopian jazz, Brazilian music, downtempo. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it’s good.


What is your first artistic memory from childhood?

I grew up in a gospel church, so I was always around music a lot. My mom made me sing in the choir, although I didn’t want to, but I remember having a fascination with the band at my church. During services I found myself staring at the band playing constantly, zoning out to that, being enamored by how the instruments worked together to make the whole sound for everything. My father was an audiophile, he collected thousands of records, and I used to just lay on the floor and listen to my dad play records all the time. So I guess that first creative spark for me was just having an appreciation for music, having it take me to another place.


Do you have any pets?

I have a cat that I picked up from the SPCA about seven years ago. His name is Ono. Just like Yoko. But more like “Oh no,” as in, “Dammit, that kitten has knocked something over again.” 


Is there a piece of public art you wish were in your private collection?

If it’s public, I like it where it is. I think it’s cool having all these visual arts pieces around town, and I like seeing them out there for everyone to enjoy. I’m not very stingy with that kind of stuff. But if there were one piece of memorabilia that I’d like to own personally, I’d want the sled from Citizen Kane. “Rosebud.” But Steven Spielberg owns that, and it’s in his personal office.


Do you have a favorite hidden place?

Yeah, but I can’t tell you because it’s hidden. But it’s very quiet. And I have access to all my favorite media, meaning music and movies.


Do you have a favorite board game?

Othello. One person has black pieces, one person has white pieces, and if you trap the other person’s pieces, you turn them all into your color. It’s a really basic game, one of the simplest board games ever, but it has nearly an infinite amount of possibilities. I’m really into games in which the concept is simple but the mastery is difficult.


Outside of your medium, who is your favorite artist?

I’m the biggest fan of Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. They can do no wrong in my book.